About That Bomb


It’s interesting watching my social media feed explode over an big explosion. I imagine if there had been the some social media during the Clinton administration I would have watched a similar explosion from the other side of the spectrum when he sent cruise missiles into the same region of the world in a failed attempt to kill Osama Bin Laden I do remember conservative friends announcing with absolute certainty that the attacks had been nothing but ‘wag the dog’ distractions from his scandals just as some liberals friends are equally certain that the MOAB was used to distract from which ever Trump scandal holds their attention. (He has so many that it’s really a buffet of concerns.)

However it also not only possible but likely that the use of this particular weapons system has nothing to do with the current president and everything with conditions on the ground and the judgment of local commanders.

First Off, the phrase ‘largest non-nuclear’ is a pretty much useless comparing things of vastly different scales. An atomic bomb like the ones used to end WWII has a yield of about 12-15 kilotons. That is the explosion is equal to 12 to 15 THOUSAND tons of TNT, the MOAB is purely conventional. It has 22,000 lbs of explosives or 11 tons, so while it may be the largest non-nuclear bomb in our inventory it is still less that one thousandth the yield. It’s kind of like comparing a penny to a ten dollar bill. That sensational headline got your attention but it did not inform you.

Second: The president does not need congress’ approval to dispatch military force. He orders the military congress declares war, but there’s this nasty confusing grey area where the military gets used but no war has been declared. After Vietnam there was the War Powers act but it has never been fully vetted by the Supreme Court.

Three: Even if the President needed to have congressional approval you do know he was granted that in 2001 don’t you? That Authorization of Military Force that Bush got after 9/11, it’s still in effect. I hate the very concept of a Trump Presidency but he’s got the authority, though it should have never been given to him, to do exactly this.

Four: This bomb has a very limited utility. It is far too large to be dropped from any bomber. To get the monster to the target they military has to use a cargo plane, and that means you can’t use it in a place where the enemy has the capacity to shoot down your bombers. It doesn’t have great penetration so it’s best used against soft targets, it has a very large area of effect and so you can’t use it where the target are mingled with non-targets.

Now, all that said we should wait for verified reports about the why of the attack. Good judgment follows from facts not fancy.


2 thoughts on “About That Bomb”

  1. Just for the heck of it, I tried looking up the heaviest weapon that the current B-52H bomber carries today; which seems to be the GBU-28, a bunker-buster 5,000 pound laser-guided bomb. These have a very small amount of explosive filler and the bomb casings were originally made from cut up 8 inch howitzer barrels.

    Many American strategic nuclear bombers were designed to carry nuclear bombs weighing 10,000 pounds (and actually did in service), including the B-52. So in theory it would be easy peasy to make a new 10,000 pound conventional bomb for our B-52H force.

  2. The Royal Air Force used a bomb of identical weight during WWII, called the Grand Slam bomb. It was designed for penetration and undermining targets by detonating underground, so only had an explosive filler of about 40% of the total mass.

    For maximum explosive blast effect, Fuel-Air bombs are sometimes used today. The MOAB dropped in Afghanistan is that type of weapon, and by its very nature must be an air-burst weapon.

    There is a reason why purely massive explosive weapons like the MOAB are little used despite how fearsome they seem to be; because of their mass they have very limited applications where they are more efficient than other types of bombs.

    If anything was learned from WWI, it was that pounding a target area with massive tonnage of high-explosives produces little practical results.

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